The politics of yesterday and the politics of tomorrow were on display last week as Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Marco Rubio launched their 2016 presidential election campaigns. Mrs. Clinton, 68, a former Senator and Secretary of State who has been around Washington for 30 years, is trying to reinvent herself yet again while Florida Senator Rubio, 43, is one of several young Republicans vying for their party’s presidential nomination.
Mrs. Clinton confirmed her candidacy on the Internet last Sunday before embarking on a road trip in a van named “Scooby” in an effort to connect with “everyday Americans.” Are you an everyday American? Me neither. There were reports the reinvented candidate stopped for coffee at an Iowa diner and pumped gas at a gas station, which made news because she hasn’t actually driven a car in more than 20 years. This particular everyday American usually travels in motorcades surrounded by campaign consultants and Secret Service agents.
On the other side of the political aisle, Rubio announced his candidacy on Monday at Miami’s Freedom Tower, the Ellis Island for Cuban immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s who were fleeing the Castro brothers’ Communist police state. Rubio’s parents were among those immigrants; his father was a bartender and his mother was a maid, making them true immigrant success stories.
“In many countries the highest office in the land is reserved for the rich and powerful,” Rubio told a cheering crowd last Monday. “But I live in an exceptional country where the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams . . . as those who come from power and privilege.” And in a well-aimed shot at Mrs. Clinton and his political mentor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the leading GOP presidential hopeful, Rubio called for “a new American century” that must leave politicians of the past behind. Good for him.
Although Bush is still the GOP front-runner — which would result in an underwhelming Bush vs. Clinton rematch in 2016 — Rubio and fellow Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, along with two or three successful Republican governors, will give Jeb Bush a run for his money in the GOP primaries. I haven’t chosen a favorite yet but I see Rubio as a top-tier contender along with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, among others.
Next year’s presidential election debates will be entertaining. On one side of the stage stands Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ anointed candidate (after all, it’s her turn), and on the other side of the stage stands an articulate young GOP candidate like Rubio or Walker. The generational difference will be apparent to everyone watching the debate — a Washington retread against a fresh political face.
Mrs. Clinton is going tout her dubious “experience” and argue people should vote for her because she’s a woman. The GOP contender will offer a new conservative vision for America, which you can accept or reject, but it will be a refreshing change from politics as usual.
It would be even more fun if the Republicans nominate former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as their vice presidential candidate because she could attack Hillary without being accused of participating in a fictitious “War on Women.”
Mrs. Clinton has another obvious problem in her run for the White House: her husband, impeached former President Bill Clinton. A vocal advocate for women’s rights, Hillary is married to a serial womanizer and their family foundation has accepted multi-million-dollar donations from Saudi Arabia, which represses women every which way. Go figure!
So stay tuned as the 2016 presidential sweepstakes unfold. No one is a shoo-in in a wide open race.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.